LibriVox recording of A Gold Hunter's Experience, by Chalkley J. Hambleton. Read by Sue Anderson.
"Early in the summer of 1860, I had an attack of gold fever. In Chicago, the conditions for such a malady were all favorable. Since the panic of 1857 there had been three years of general depression, money was scarce, there was little activity in business, the outlook was discouraging, and I, like hundreds of others, felt blue."
Thus Chalkley J. Hambleton begins his pithy and engrossing tale of participation in the Pike's Peak gold rush. Four men in partnership hauled 24 tons of mining equipment by ox cart across the Great Plains from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Denver, Colorado. Hambleton vividly recounts their encounters with buffalo herds, Indians, and"the returning army of disappointed gold seekers."
Setting up camp near Mountain City, Colorado, Hambleton watched one man wash "several nice nuggets of shining gold" from the dirt and gravel, only to learn afterwards that "these same nuggets had been washed out several times before, whenever a 'tenderfoot' would come along, who it was thought might want to buy a rich claim."
Two years later, "tired and disgusted with the whole business," Hambleton returned to Chicago, where he arrived "a wiser if not richer man." In later years, Hambleton was a prominent Chicago lawyer, real estate developer, and a member of the Chicago Board of Education. He wrote this candid account for family and friends, publishing it privately in 1898. It is based in good part on letters he had sent from the gold fields to his sister. Summing up his experience with wry humor, he writes: "After selling out my interest in the joint enterprise, I still had left some fifty claims on various lodes . . . Some time after returning to Chicago, I was making a real estate trade . . . and I threw in these fifty gold mines. . . Had I only kept them, and gotten up some artistic deeds of conveyance, in gilded letters, what magnificent wedding presents they would have made. . . In the long list of high-sounding, useless presents, the present of a gold mine would have led all the rest."
(Summary by Sue Anderson)
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April 4, 2017 Subject:
The Unvarnished Truth from 1860 in Colorado
This was when wild buffaloes numbered in the millions on the American plains and when districts had to make up laws as needs arose. Not to return on pain of death was the sentence passed on a man who was caught stealing a suit of clothes. Stealing could not be tolerated because a prospector could not always watch the stuff he needed to sustain his life.
The two ways that men were deceived into buying claims that were not yielding gold: being showed gold that came from elsewhere as if it came from the claim for sale; being sold quicksilver that was laced with a bit of gold, as this was used for testing a claim.
The man grew wiser, stronger, and poorer from his two year stint at prospecting. So this book is a good check on our get-rich-quick mindset.
The book is well read and no mistakes are made in the reading. Quite engaging and pleasant!
One man's account of over 2 years experience in the Californian gold rush, this is a very listenable account detailing the travails and disappointments of a individual in a particularly colourful age of American history. The author sets out as part of a large party, finds progress as part of a wagon train much more stressful than he imagines, takes stake in a number of mines upon arrival and, well, you will listen to see what he ended up with when the author gives an ironic final tally at the very end. The writing is fairly immediate, and the reading good, although, as a matter of personal taste, I would prefer a masculine tone reading the outdoor adventures described here.